Fiat 500 Performance
The base engine in the Fiat 500 makes 101 horsepower, but some test drivers think the 500’s horsepower rating is a perfect match for city driving. They agree that the 500 Abarth’s turbocharged engine helps the 500 keep pace in faster environments. Regardless of the model you choose, reviewers say the 500 has engaging steering and is very easy to park. However, they warn that the 500’s ride is stiff and say it’s easily overwhelmed on the highway.
- "In any form, the 2013 Fiat 500 is tiny and quirky until you drive it. Then, it's tiny, quirky and respectable." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "The base engine is raspy, as you would expect from a small-displacement 4-cylinder, but it's not unrefined." -- Consumer Guide
- "It's oh-so-easy to fit into tight parking spots, a huge perk in the urban jungle." -- Motor Trend
- "Interstate trips are manageable, but you won’t want to make a regular habit of them." -- Cars.com
Acceleration and Power
The base 500 comes with a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 101 horsepower and a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional. The 500 Turbo has a turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 135 horsepower. The 500 Abarth also has a turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 160 horsepower. It only comes with a five-speed manual transmission. According to the EPA, the 500 averages 27/34 mpg city/highway with the base engine and automatic transmission, which are low ratings for a car as small as the 500. The Abarth model averages 28/34 mpg.
Though the Fiat 500’s base engine makes 101 horsepower, which is low for the class, reviewers aren’t overly disappointed with it. They say it’s fun-to-drive and think it has plenty of power for city driving, but they do mention that it struggles at highway speeds. Critics really like the 500 Abarth for its ample power. One reviewer even says it’s a strong competitor to the Mini Cooper John Cooper works, which is a big compliment. Auto writers haven’t tested the 500 Turbo yet. Test drivers like the two available transmissions. They report that both the manual and automatic transmissions are smooth and responsive. In particular, test drivers like the manual because it’s engaging and the clutch is smooth and well-weighted.
- "Standard 500 models can keep up with city traffic, but having only 101 horsepower on tap makes them feel overtaxed on the highway. The Abarth is stronger all around, though it really comes alive above 4,000 rpm. On all, the manual transmission is fun to shift. With the automatic, downshifts are surprisingly quick and upshifts are smooth." -- Consumer Guide
- "The lightweight, 101-horsepower Fiat is definitely fun, just not in a sideways, airborne, car-chase kind of way." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "We're happy to say the 500 Abarth picks up the pace substantially, tempering the car's cuteness quotient with a measure of mean and adding track-day agility to its dynamic resume. The net result is a scrappy little hot hatch that seems ready to challenge the Mini John Cooper Works on pretty even terms." -- Car and Driver (2012)
- "The five-speed manual transmission felt good and operated cleanly for a cable-actuated system. The six-speed automatic responded quickly and without drama, and after driving an automatic 500, we prefer this powertrain to the Ford Fiesta with its six-speed dual clutch auto 'box." -- Autoblog (2012)
- "The five-speed manual transmission shifted smoothly. The clutch had a good balance; it felt firm without feeling too heavy." -- Cars.com (2012, Fiat 500c)
Handling and Braking
The Fiat 500’s handling and steering receive mixed reviews. Some test drivers think its steering is accurate, quick and responsive, while one reviewer says it’s dull when the 500 isn’t in sport mode. The brakes also receive contrasting reviews. One test driver says they’re strong, and one likes the brakes on the Abarth most. A different reviewer says the Abarth goes off course during hard braking. Overall, auto writers enjoy driving the Fiat 500 because its steering is so engaging. They do mention, however, that the 500’s handling is not as controlled at highway speeds, especially when it is windy. Some reviewers also think the 500’s ride is stiff, though it’s not unbearable.
- "All 500s are fun to toss about. Steering feel is direct and communicative. Despite a somewhat tall design, body lean in fast turns is very well controlled. Abarth's track-tuned suspension, quicker steering, and high-performance brakes make it the best of the lot." -- Consumer Guide
- "A big part of the appeal lies in how the 500 combines the advantages of a tiny car with comfortable accommodations and a relatively smooth highway ride." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "The steering is rather devoid of feel and numb on center, but press the Sport button on the dash and the 500's steering firms up pleasingly." -- Edmunds (2012)
- "The car feels a little unstable over 80 mph, as if every gust of wind wants to push you into a ditch." -- The Detroit News (2012, 500c)
- "It's actually quite fun, though you must be sure to brake in a straight line or it can be a bit darty under heavy braking." -- Road and Track (Fiat 500 Abarth)